Sip Trips #68: Wicked Wine Weekend

Over the Canada Day long weekend, the Sip Syndicate returned to the Okanagan Valley wine region, this time setting up shop in Kelowna. We covered a lot of ground over our three-day stay, so let’s get right to the good stuff!

We chose to celebrate our nation’s birthday by touring the many wineries that were walking distance from our Airbnb accommodation, with our first stop being Beaumont Winery. Here, we were able to sample eight different products, with my favourites being their Pinot Blanc, Chilled Red, Pinot Noir, and Heritage. Our hostess was very friendly and the setting was fun with some live music even being served up.

Next up, was Volcanic Hills Winery, where we could taste four wines, among the winery’s extensive lineup. Again, the wines were good, with my preferred samples being their Chardonnay and Rose. The only downside was that our hostess wasn’t nearly as friendly as our first stop and seemed annoyed with our group, just because we were all selecting different wines to match our desired styles.

wine enthusiast

A quick 400-meter walk (although it seems to take forever when you just want more wine) brought us to visit number three at Mt. Boucherie Winery. At the Bouche (a nickname they have yet to verify and endorse), I liked a number of their releases, including the Semillon, Rose, Summit, Syrah, and Pinot Noir.

Moving on, our crew literally travelled through the vines to reach Little Straw Vineyards. After a tasting that yielded a bunch of very good wines (Rose, Cuvee Noir, Southern Cross, and Marechal Foch), we had a fantastic meal at their Barrel Top Grill bistro. While splitting a trio of tapas dishes, our host entertained us with an energy you’d expect at the start of his day and not the end.

We wrapped up day one of our vacation by popping into Grizzli Winery. This massive new facility just opened that day and staff were still figuring things out. The operation only had two reds and three dessert wines available, with whites to come later, but offered a complimentary tasting of three of those options. Mrs. Sip and I picked up their Cabernet Sauvignon to go along with our upcoming steak dinner.

one more bottle of wine

The second day of our trip was largely spent watching a Euro 2016 match (Germany vs. Italy) at Friends Pub and hanging out at the beach. We did manage to visit the Tree Brewing Institute for dinner, where the gang enjoyed a few of their beers, including the West Coast Pale Ale, Thirsty Beaver Amber Ale and Mellow Moon Pineapple Hefeweizen. The setting, along downtown Kelowna’s waterfront, was wonderful and the place had board and card games that patrons can play while they eat and drink.

Sadly, every long weekend away has to come to an end, but we made sure to cram in a few more wineries before making the trek home. Our first stop was to The Hatch Winery, which was a funky, kid-friendly place. The label work on their wines is great, although some bottles are quite expensive. Mrs. Sip and I took home their Reserve Chardonnay after trying four tastings each.

Next up, was Quail’s Gate Winery, one of the bigger players in the area. They do offer three complimentary tastings, before charging $5 for four more samples. Unlike other places, though, they only waive their tasting fee after buying two bottles, as opposed to the typical one bottle. Of the wines offered, I liked their Pinot Gris, Reserve Chardonnay, and Rose.

wine-ritual

We followed that up with Mission Hill Winery, undoubtedly the region’s biggest estate (hell, Michael Bolton has two upcoming shows at the colossal operation). The place was busy, but definitely a gorgeous, picturesque stop. Tastings here will set you back $8 per person and is only waived with purchasing two bottles, so Mrs. Sip went ahead with the sampling only.

Looking to have a nice meal before hitting the highway, we ended up at 19 Okanagan Grill + Bar at the Two Eagles Golf Course. Here, we each had a fantastic lunch (I ordered the trio of pulled pork sliders and a Caesar salad and Mrs. Sip asked for their grilled cheese and tomato soup combo), while throwing back a couple beverages and enjoying the warm, sunny day. The service here was awesome, with Mrs. Sip being given a full nine-ounce replacement of wine after the wind knocked a menu over, thus spilling her carafe… which she’d already drank three quarters of.

Our final stop of the weekend was Off the Grid Winery. This is a newer operation, but the location is cool and the pygmy goats and other wildlife they have on the site are a unique feature. Of their wines, I enjoyed the Pinot Gris, which we grabbed a bottle of to enjoy at a later date and reminisce about a wonderful journey through the Kelowna scene.

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BC Beer Baron #137 – Tin Whistle Killer Bee Porter

Each month, as part of this 366-day BC craft beer extravaganza that I will be sharing with you throughout 2016, I will highlight a specific style or theme of beers for a whole week of articles. I used to be hesitant about drinking porters, believing them to mostly be coffee-based in the flavour department. Once I realized that was only half true, a whole new world was opened to me and that’s a world I want to share with others.

With Porter Week in full swing, we take a look at this delicious entry from Tin Whistle Brewing.

Made with Keremeos caramelized honey, the Killer Bee Porter is one of a kind on the BC market. With tastes of chocolate, honey and spice, the beer is beautiful in its complexity. Don’t let the menacing looking bee on the bottle scare you off… this brew has to be experienced.

Tin Whistle Killer Bee Porter

BC Liquor Stores have this product listed as a dark honey ale, rather than a porter, but the bottle says otherwise. To be fair, Tin Whistle has also described the beer as a dark honey ale in some promotional material.

Tin Whistle also has a Chocolate Cherry Porter that is quite good. The company runs a smaller operation and doesn’t even have its own website – a social media crime in today’s world. That said, a highlight from our last couple visits to the Okanagan wine region, has been checking out the Penticton Farmer’s Market, where each time I’ve been able to sample Tin Whistle beers, as well as pick up a couple bombers for later. It sure helps in breaking up all the wine tasting over the stay!

For more BC Beer Baron articles, please visit our main page…

Sip Trips #53: Best of 2015

2015 was a great year for Sip Advisor adventures, many of which were documented in our new feature, ‘Sip Trips’. Here are the Top 15 experiences of 2015, in chronological order because it would be way too hard to rank so much awesomeness:

#1: Valentine’s Day Beer Tour

Is there a better way to celebrate you and your partner’s love than boarding a bus with other beer nuts and travelling around to a selection of breweries and other stops? Dubbed the ‘For the Love of Craft’ tour, this route featured stops at Strange Fellowes Brewing, Storm Brewing, Schokolade Chocolate Café, and finished at Odd Society Spirits. Best of all, the tour still allowed for some one-on-one time that night, so you could enjoy each other’s drunken splendor in private.

Valentine's Beer Tour

#2: Portland Beer and Wine Fest

This annual Easter treat is a favourite festival for the Sip Advisor. It’s just so well done, with options for beer, wine, and spirits connoisseurs alike. We especially enjoy the educational presentations, which allow for samples of drink, mixed with food, such as the tequila and chocolate truffle session. After a full day of drinking at the Portland Convention Center, we returned to our hotel for the manager’s reception and then things really got fuzzy.

#3: Bacchanalia

What happens when you drink wine all day and all night… you end up in a bar with a pint of beer as a nightcap! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy wine quite a bit, but I love breaking things up with some brews. It helps keep the palate refreshed. Bacchanalia is a very fun event, featuring countless wineries from around the Okanagan wine region. Best of all, it’s an excuse to get away and spend the weekend at a nice resort (also the site of the wine event)… until you return to a flooded apartment.

#4: Beer Trivia and This Sandwich/That Beer

This was another great weekend of sipping, as we combined Beer Trivia, followed the next day by This Sandwich/That Beer, all part of Vancouver Craft Beer Week. Our team fared well during trivia, which included a number of beverage servings, while the food and drink at This Sandwich/That Beer were both amazing and the venue (The Portside Pub) was a perfect place to host the extravaganza. I’d recommend both events to all beer fans.

Beer Trivia

#5: Tip N’ Taste

This is the only event on this list that did not include Mrs. Sip, who was gallivanting around Europe at the time. I’ve been a supporter of this festival for years and will continue to go back. The drinks offered are joined by great food from a number of local restaurants. You know a night of drinking went well when I wake up before Ma and Pa Sip – who I was sharing a hotel room with – the next morning, nearly missing the location’s continental breakfast.

#6: Galiano Beer and Wine Festival

I’m still amazed that this festival was occurring for the 23rd year in a row and yet most beer aficionados (people more connected than even I) hadn’t heard of it. Arriving early in the morning and having to kill a few hours before the event began was totally worth it. In future years, we may try to stay on the island longer and partake in the party bus transporting attendees from the event to a local pub afterwards for more boozing.

#7: Disneyland 60th Anniversary

Trips to Disneyland for Mrs. Sip and I have evolved from being all about the rides and attractions to being about the rides and attractions… while intoxicated. With each holiday, we find new places to enjoy drinks and new experiences to conquer, while under the influence. On this trip, we visited The Cove Bar for the first time, splitting lobster nachos and sampling drinks from their secret menu. Then, it was off to the Animation Building to try our hand at illustrating Disney characters.

Disneyland 60th

#8: Brewery Bike Tour and Brew Cruise

With a friend visiting from Toronto, I had to share Vancouver’s burgeoning craft beer industry and the best way to tackle the ‘Yeast Van’ region is by bike. We managed to visit eight different locations around the city. As if we hadn’t had enough beer, the next day we were back at it, boarding the S.S. Booze Cruise (okay, that wasn’t the real name of the vessel) for some debauchery on the open seas. In total, over the weekend, I tried over 60 different beers!

#9: First Night in Zambia

After 36 hours of travel, all Mrs. Sip and I wanted to do was crash and acclimatize ourselves to our new time zone. Following a six-hour nap, we hoped to see some of Zambia’s city core during our brief stay. The owner of our accommodation invited us to have a couple beers and offered to take us into town for dinner. What followed was a meal that included fried caterpillars, bottles of wine and beer, and a visit to a local club for a truly Zambian music experience.

#10: Chobe River Cruise

Floating down Botswana’s Chobe River, with beer in hand, was a ‘Welcome to Africa’ moment I will never forget. Everywhere the eye could see provided views of animals in their natural habitat, behaving (rightfully so) as if we were foreigners to their land. A meal shared with our boat’s crew, while watching the sunset and sipping wine made you feel more connected with the universe than ever before. Mrs. Sip has ranked this as her top moment of 2015, and I can’t really blame her.

Timon and Pumbaa Real

#11: Birthday Bus Party

My 32nd birthday was spent in amazing fashion, waking up to the sounds of thirsty elephant, heading to the man-made watering hole at Elephant Sands in Botswana. The festive day ended in similar fashion, aboard our tour bus with bomber-sized beers. The only hiccup was receiving a room without a fridge (while many of our tour compatriots had one), so I couldn’t keep chilled the beer I wanted to enjoy that night, as well as the cake I was given that morning.

#12: Etosha Waterhole

Watching elephants, rhinos, and giraffes come in and out of the waterhole, while jackals ran around wildly and even a lion could be spotted surveying the scene from a distance, as we sipped beers, wine, and bubbly, is an experience Mrs. Sip and I will never, ever forget. We did the waterhole right, developing our own schedule over our visits. Beer and chips in the afternoon; wine, cheese and crackers for sunset; and bubbly paired with dessert through the twilight.

#13: Last Night in Cape Town

We chose to spend our last night in beautiful Cape Town, bouncing around the city and exploring its beer, wine, and food culture. Cape Town is renowned for two of those things, but we found their budding craft beer industry to also hold some gems. When your day starts with breweries and taphouses and finishes with wine in a crypt beneath a church (with an amazing three course wine pairing meal in between) you know you’re living the high life.

Fine Dining

#14: Bellingham Tap Trail

As a belated birthday gift, Ma and Pa Sip treated Mrs. Sip and me to a fun-filled weekend in Bellingham, Washington (just across the Canadian-U.S. border). Bellingham has a great craft beer community and we made sure to completely immerse ourselves in it. Over the weekend, we visited eight different breweries and taphouses along the town’s Tap Trail and have plans to return early in 2016 for another go round.

#15: Unibroue Dinner

Mrs. Sip and I have been to a number of great beer events this year, but this dinner, featuring the beers of Quebec’s Unibroue Brewery and the food of the Devil’s Elbow Ale and Smokehouse might go down as the best. Set during the Vancouver Hopscotch Festival week, the meal featured generous pours of Unibroue’s fantastic line-up and servings of some amazing food. The gifts didn’t stop coming, though, as upon leaving, we were given a souvenir glass as a memento.

I probably could have filled this entire list with experiences from our trip to Southern Africa (missing is dinner at Mama Africa and wine tasting through the famed Stellenbosch and Franschhoek regions). Even outside of Africa, this list is far from complete, as I am neglecting a number of amazing days, nights and entire weekends. For those out there that played a role in my enjoyment, I humbly thank you and hope we can do it again in 2016!

Sip Trips #18: Gluttony Games

Bacchanalia traditionally refers to a Roman festival celebrating the god of the grape harvest, Bacchus (also known as Dionysus). Today, the term is usually applied to “drunken revelry”… and that’s my favourite style of reveling!  Each year, countless wineries get together at the Penticton Lakeside Resort for an event of epic proportions and this year, Mrs. Sip and I were in attendance. Let’s see how things shook out for us in the Okanagan region!

Bacchus

Following our trek to Penticton, we settled in with a meal at the resort’s Hooded Merganser restaurant. While the ladies enjoyed cocktails, followed by wine, I got to try the Stanley Park seasonal beer, SunSetter (summer wheat ale), which was so good, I ordered a second.

After dinner, we were off to Bad Tattoo Brewing for a beer flight nightcap. The five selections we were offered were each good and I particularly liked their Los Muertos Cerveza Negra (which you don’t see too often around these parts) and their Full Sleeve Strong Stout (which I grabbed a bomber of for the road). They also do something neat with their Berliner Weise, where they combine it with a squirt of a flavoured syrup of your choice, including green apple, peach, and raspberry. We, of course, tried all three!

The next morning, we hit the town’s farmer’s market, which shuts down a number of streets to allow for stalls selling fruits, vegetables, crafts, plants, and most importantly, beer and wine. We grabbed a few bottles of vino as we perused the bazaar and also stopped at the Tin Whistle Brewing tent for a tasting. Here, I bought bottles of their Scorpion Double IPA, Peach Cream Ale, and Chocolate Cherry Porter, before we were off in search of wineries.

farmer's market

Our afternoon included stops for tasting at Misconduct, Pentage, and Perseus Wineries, where the beautiful landscapes were matched by the delicious red, white, and rose wines we were getting to enjoy. The collection of bottles kept growing, but that’s just a sign that you’re having a great time!

The main event of the weekend was of course Bacchanalia 2015, which featured countless wineries, surrounding a feast of nibblies. I have to admit that by this point, I was suffering from some wine palette fatigue and a lot of stuff I was sampling was starting to taste the same. The food at the event was good, but I also seemed to tire of eating and noticed that many items would quickly run out while others were hard to find, sometimes located at one of the serving areas, but not all. A constant loop of the food tables sometimes unearthed hidden gems like sausage rolls and meatballs.

Following Bacchanalia, most of our group was still up for hitting The Barking Parrot Bar in our hotel, to wrap up the evening. Here, I enjoyed the Naramata Nut Brown beer, by Cannery Brewing, which was a welcome change from wine and a very fine beverage.

Scotch Nightcap

On Sunday, we packed up and hit the road, making a pit stop at 8th Generation Winery, where Mrs. Sip became a member. She, along with other members of the Sip Family, are big fans of their wines and bubblies, so why not get shipped a few cases each year for glorious consumption.

Out last stop before making the long journey home was to the BC Wine Studio, where Cousin Sip had secured us a personal invite at the farmer’s market the day before. Here, we were treated to an intimate experience of tasting new wines fresh from the barrel, learning about their production process, and even getting to provide notes on grape mixes and products that have yet to hit the market.

The end result of the weekend was 15 bottles of wine, four bombers of beer, and a host of new experiences and memories. All was well with the world, until we arrived home and found our condo had suffered a sink flood while we were away. This has put the Sip Advisor a little out of commission, as my booze collection had to be packed up temporarily. We will forge forward, though and do our best to bring you the best liquor coverage possible.